A controversy has erupted over expensive iPhones gifted to MPs from Karnataka by a state Congress minister, with BJP on Tuesday terming it a “shame on democracy” even as chief minister HD Kumaraswamy pleaded ignorance about the largesse. As the JDS-Congress coalition government came in the line of fire over the issue, Kumaraswamy said he was not aware of the gift and it was not discussed with him, but his ministerial colleague DK Shivakumar said they were given on his behalf as a “gesture” to the lawmakers. The gift was given to 40 Karnataka MPs ahead of a meeting convened by Kumaraswamy in New Delhi to discuss state-related issues, including the Cauvery issue, to be taken up in the Parliament during the monsoon session beginning Wednesday. “Sri.@hd_kumaraswamy’s govt has enough money to gift expensive gadgets to MPs but, He can’t waive off loans of farmers. He can’t provide free bus passes to students. He can’t allocate funds for development of coastal & north Karnataka. This govt is a shame on democracy,” Karnataka BJP said in a tweet. BJP’s tweet came after party’s Rajya Sabha member from the state Rajeev Chandrasekhar wrote to Kumaraswamy returning the gift, saying the state should not waste public money when farmers and civic workers were in distress. “Along with the papers for meeting, your Government has sent an expensive Apple iPhone, which costs more than Rs 1 Lakh... it is unacceptable that public money is misspent like this,” he said in the letter. He pointed to the chief minister’s claims about austerity measures and civic workers in Bengalurunot being paid salaries on time, and farmers being in financial distress. “My conscience does not permit me to accept this and with due respect to you, I am sending this phone back to you. Instead I urge you to pay the salaries of Pourakarmikas who tirelessly work to keep our city clean and focus on real austerity so that public money can be invested in those in need in our state,” he added. Chandrasekhar has also tweeted on the same with picture of the phone and what looks like a branded leather bag. Reacting to this, the chief minister said he was not aware of such gifts being given.